COVID-19: Preparing for Online Education and the Virtual Campus

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READY Education

News about the COVID-19 pandemic has colleges and universities wondering what they should do to keep their staff and students protected and informed. Questions are coming up about how best to communicate critical information both campus-wide and to specific groups. Many institutions are beginning to realize that they are not fully prepared for emergency situations and are worried about the impact both academically and socially in the extreme event of a campus shut down. In order to alleviate some stress in such uncertain times we have outlined a few ways that you can start to strengthen your online campus experience to keep students engaged and set up for academic success.

Drive Virtual Campus Community to Support Changing Student Experience

While we are experiencing major changes to how we interact inside and outside the campus bubble, we are fortunate to be living at a time when the technology to help us stay connected is better than ever. 'There's an app for that' is a refrain that holds true for the communication and community challenges being experienced in higher ed. A common concern when accommodating for remote campus experiences is the fear of losing that person-to-person connection - this is why investing in a digital student experience that extends that on-campus community is so essential. With this in mind, it’s important to invest in mobile engagement tools with a focus on community building. Make it easy for students to join clubs online, chat with school friends, stay informed with assignment deadlines and be aware of all campus events and activities.

One way we've seen campus communities grow and remain highly engaged is through the use of private social networks, like the one offered by our closed READY social mobile app. In a time of crisis, real-time, open communication is essential. It become the go-to place for administrators to disseminate information as well as the go-to place for students to receive the latest information. For our current partners, the Campus Wall has become a private digital space that allows support staff to provide real-time updates to students and for students to communicate with each other. Furthermore, it provides a barometer for community sentiment; administrators can participate, listen and support students as they work through this difficult time.

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Social distancing has led many of us to  crave connectivity more than ever and offering private messaging tools gives yet another channel for students to confidently and safely reach out with questions, or reach out to each other. With a unified campus app, it’s easy to facilitate discussions and administrators have the ability to assemble digital discussion groups in lieu of a physical tutorial or study session.

Communicate with Students Using Mobile Apps to Improve Emergency Messaging Impact 

The phone tree days are long gone and email is not far behind in line to be entered into the history books. Although email is still a medium that is used widely today, 54% of emails to students remain unread which is too big a risk in times of a global outbreak. This stat is overwhelmingly high however, not overly surprising as we all know from personal experience, that we are far more likely to respond within minutes to a text or an Instagram direct message than we are to a lengthy email. When it comes to a crisis or health emergency, there simply needs to be a better way to reach our students with a medium that is a pleasure for them to engage with as opposed to a pain. When it comes to a virus outbreak it is imperative that the information is delivered quickly and spread fast throughout the community. During emergencies, in-app push notifications will be your right hand man. Push notifications are not only integral to an institutions’ communication strategy, but it’s what this generation of students expect. Whether you want to push out an emergency notification campus-wide, or to select groups, this will be a go-to in times like these.

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Integrate Your LMS Across Your Campus Technology Stack

When it comes to remote campus life, students want to feel like they can access everything they need all in one place. Nobody wants to login to 10 different platforms to get to the information they are looking for. It’s frustrating, discouraging and simply not enjoyable to use. This is why single sign-on capacity and campus apps that leverage rich integrations with LMS and SIS systems might also be something to consider to reduce the barrier to entry and so students can securely access all relevant information they are looking for in one place, academic or otherwise.

Prepare for Potential Exposure Events with Health Screening & Contact Tracing Tools

While schools choose their approaches for re-opening, many are choosing various degrees of having students, staff, and faculty return to campus. To ensure you're prepared to limit and manage the spread of COVID-19, look into the many approaches recommended by health authorities and recently published research. We have recently launched a tool to support schools in this process: READY Contact Trace. From automatic contact tracing, to health screening forms and health passes for those headed to campus, we have already seen incredible interest in these features from the higher ed community.

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